On the Move Back To Our Roots
Case Note No. 14; Sunday August 29, 2021
Hello again, it's me, Ms. AAngyl, the blogging unicorn. I am so excited that I can hardly sleep, let alone dictate my blog! Margaret and I are on a big trip, to meet up with friends and relatives across Canada and in the United States. Some might even say that we are on a pilgrimage to connect our pasts with our futures. Please feel free to join us on our journey in the coming weeks.
I was born in 2002 and raised in Ocala, living my life in Florida until I was fifteen. That's the state where I first met Margaret, and in 2017 I decided to become her live-in therapy horse, and move to her home in Canada, on the island of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Despite my Florida roots, many generations of my mother's family (my Arabian side) lived in California. You may recall that when I first started writing this blog, I was still in my horse form, living in my house on Shore Road. In Case No. Note 4, I mentioned my longing to know my Arabian grandfather. I was regularly reminded of him because my patient kept a large Breyer model of his likeness, still in its original packaging, in her half of my house. It was on the desk where she cut up my fresh fruit and veggie snacks, so I often looked in that direction. Well, guess what? The big news is that we are soon going to California for a visit. Finally we can see where my grandfather lived, and meet some of my living relatives. I can't wait!
It's a long way to California (and to Tipperary, for that matter LOL). But first we have other stops to make along the way. Margaret wanted me, and Big Silver II, to meet her many friends and family members living in Ontario. (FYI, when traveling, I take the form in the material world of a small white unicorn with a rainbow mane and tail. And as a reminder of me, Margaret often wears a rainbow braid hanging from her hat. That's just a heads-up, in case you happen to spot us.)
In order to partake of this sojourn, we had to drive from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to southwestern Ontario, a distance of 1,636 km. We did this last week, at a leisurely pace over three days, staying with friends, and arriving at our destination late Friday afternoon. Which reminds me. I have to tell you that there have been several changes of vehicular characters since we co-authored Meant To Be, An Awakening Journey, published in May of 2020. The mechanical angel who brought us from Cape Breton to Lambton County, Ontario is named Big Silver II. Big Silver I, the 2012 Chevy Silverado 1500 extended cab V8 truck that Margaret bought used in June of 2019, is now resting in pieces. In December of 2020, he simultaneously crossed the Rainbow Bridge and the Canso Causeway, the famous bridge leading onto Cape Breton Island. This occurred after an untimely after-dark encounter with an unseen foreign object in the road, causing him to swerve, blow a tire and scrape along the guardrail, taking out all of the safety systems on his right side. Thank you for your service, Big Silver I.
Nine months into the pandemic, used trucks of any description were as scarce as hens' teeth in Nova Scotia. And so, there was no alternative but to replace Big Silver with a new truck. At that time, suitably-equipped trucks (most of which are made in the USA), were also in very short supply. Nevertheless, enter into our life Big Silver II, a 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 High Country LOL, an updated and upgraded version of Big Silver I, with a diesel engine. This burly fellow appeared at MacGillivray GMC in Antigonish, sporting the same paint colour as Big Silver I (a Chevy Silverado colour that is simply called "Silver," although colour-conscious Margaret would be more likely to describe it as "Metallic Medium Charcoal Gray." The Silver paint colour just happened to be the only available choice in a High Country Silverado with a Duramax diesel engine. Apparently this particular mechanical angel was meant to be our next family truck, which conveniently did not require a significant change of name for the new character.
In order to add Big Silver II to the vehicular family, Margaret and Johannes each had to bid a fond farewell to a beloved vehicle. Exit both Katy the Kona (her 2019 Hyundai Kona in Acid Yellow, a shade of lime green), and his 1990 black convertible Mercedes GD-wagon, a rare bird with a diesel engine. For sure, it was sad to see them go. But trusty Big Silver II incorporates all of the best features of the three dearly-departed vehicles, and a whole lot more. So life rolls on. And as Muriel used to say, there's nothing wrong with learning how to share.
Readers of our book, Meant To Be, will know that Margaret grew up in the village of Watford, Ontario and spent her childhood summers at the family cottage in Port Franks. These two villages in Lambton County are very dear to her heart. Her brother Jim and his wife Margaret McLaren (sometimes referred to as "Margaret V" among family members, to avoid confusion with my Margaret) now own and maintain the cottage, and kindly host and/or facilitate many gatherings of family and friends there. So here we are, sharing time with them and enjoying the best of everything the cottage and the surrounding area has to offer, in the glorious hot days of late August.
Of course, of course, one of the unforgettable highlights of summer life at the cottage is the daily trip to the Port Franks Beach. The cottage is conveniently situated on the bank of a creek whose mouth empties into Lake Huron, one of Canada's Great Lakes. The beach is a short walk from the cottage, along a former roadway that is now a picturesque tree-canopied walking path that follows the creek. This creek is known to most as Mud Creek. However, others in the past, with a questionable, or perhaps romantic or revisionist approach to history, preferred to call it the "Old Ausable River." Interestingly, a current search of the area on the Maps app on Margaret's iPhone7 reveals an enticing new name for this body of water (drum roll)... Golden Creek! Margaret loves this name, but brother Jim has an opposite reaction, and swears by his modern Android phone that the notion that Mud Creek has been renamed is an error or aberration, if not an outright abomination. Seen above is a family of swans enjoying some quality time today on Mud/Golden Creek. At the moment, it might be more aptly named Green Creek, thanks to the large bloom of Duckweed, a tiny floating plant that holds the distinction of being one of the smallest flowering plants in existence. Well done, Duckweed! Time will tell by what name this lake-meeting body of water will come to be known in future days.
The beach can get rather crowded with visitors on the weekends, so seasoned locals know that it is best to continue to walk far down from the mouth, to where the crowds thin out and the lake water is pristine. Instead of walking, some cottage owners, including friendly neighbours, arrive by power boat and anchor offshore. Lazy mornings and afternoons are spent swimming, paddle boarding and bobbing in the warm lake waters, sometimes seated in innovative floating chairs made of pool noodles and durable straps.
Another huge attraction of late summer life at the cottage is the joy of al fresco meals on the patio, designed around the abundant fresh produce grown in the area, and available at farm and orchard stands that have been operating for decades. For Margaret, the highlight is delicious barbecued meals featuring beefsteak tomatoes, fresh local corn on the cob, and local peaches. I know I would love to taste the corn and peaches.
It has been over five years since Margaret visited the village of Watford, Ontario, population of about 1,600 souls. Brother Jim was keen to get to acquainted with Big Silver II, so he offered to drive, and off we went. Watford is a 20-minute drive south from the cottage, along country roads bordered with fields of cash crops such as hay, soybeans, corn, and even cabbages. Much to her surprise and delight, along the way through this remote rural countryside, Margaret spotted not one but two new equestrian facilities. One of them is called All About Horses. How exciting for a horse lover living in Lambton County! As soon as she has some free time, she will pay them a visit to learn more about what they offer.
When we arrived in Watford, Big Silver II and I took in the surroundings, while Margaret mailed a letter at the local post office, and took some pictures of the landmarks, including McLaren Pharmacy, which was established by her great grandfather William Peter McLaren in 1869. It is in a new location on the former Main Street, now known as Nauvoo Road.
Of course, of course Big Silver I was a vehicular character in Meant To Be, so he knew all about the inventor named Maxwell, and his famous horseless carriage known as the Maxmobile. Naturally, Big Silver II was curious about it, and wanted his picture taken in view of the former fire hall, where a Maxmobile is on display. He also wanted a shot of the Armouries, with its muraled walls depicting famous moments in Watford's history.
We unicorns can pull a lot of strings for our loved ones. Our tour of Watford included a drive around the back streets, including Ontario Street, where we passed the former McLaren house. Imagine Margaret's astonishment to see a huge blue flag featuring a white unicorn head, flying proudly from the flag standard on the porch of the brick house her grandfather built in 1915! She was so excited by it that she just had to knock on the door and ask the owners if she could photograph the flag. After introductions, the new owners kindly invited all of us to come in. While Jim talked to the man of the house about all of the building improvements he had made to the house, Margaret chatted with his wife, who had filled the dining room plate rail and tops of cabinets with the largest collection of unicorn memorabilia she had ever seen! She and her brother learned that the new owners had moved into the house in 2017, the year I invited my patient into my life. Just a coincidence LOL!
Summertime at Wildflower Cottage
August 21, 2021; Case Note No. 13
Ah, summertime! And the livin' is easy. And abundant. It is late August, that glorious time of year when Gaia is resplendent in her brightest colours, and boundless in her generosity as She nurtures to maturity and perfection Her gifts of fruits and vegetables! Of course, of course, it's me, Ms. AAngyl, the unicorn. Having moved to my house on Shore Road in late October of last year, I did not have a chance to experience the joy of summer in that place, while I was still embodied as a horse. So this year, from above, I am taking in a great view of all that I missed.
As you may know, I was instrumental in finding our little piece of paradise on Cape Breton Island. When my patient Margaret first laid eyes on the small blue-and-white cottage with its untouched fields full of wild vegetation, she named her new home Wildflower Cottage, and resolved to keep the property as true to its natural state as she could. (Some might even say, "Weeds are her friends." But her horticultural philosophy is to co-create with Mother Nature, and see how their joint projects work out.)
In keeping with the cottage name, wildflowers of all kinds grow side-by-side across the front deck. These were grown from seeds that were randomly tossed from mixed seed packets. It keeps Margaret busy watching to see what kinds of flowers will appear, and when, among the tightly-packed stems and leaves that grow up, and cram themselves together with little space between. The Marguerites among were the earliest to bloom. Only their dry flower stalks remain now (serving as convenient supports for climbing wild Vetch plants that recently invited themselves into the garden, confident they would be welcome, given their strong resemblance to Beach Peas). The Poppies and Brown-eyed Susan's are late bloomers, just recently adding their showy blossoms to the display. Some native Queen Anne's Lace plants have also joined the party of late.
Down by my blue-and-white house, Mother Nature has worked closely with the human tenders of the big sand hill. Native beach grass has grown tall on the hilltop, forming a nice backdrop for the rows of root vegetables planted on the west-facing slope. Of course, of course, this fruit-loving granddaughter of Huckleberry Bey is very fond of berries of all kinds. The wild strawberry plants on Strawberry/Lupine Hill, and the rows of cultivated ones, have stopped producing berries. But the neighbouring fields are now filled with delicious ripe blueberries and blackberries. I can just taste them! You can be sure that I am also keeping a close eye on the progress of the carrots!
Meanwhile, Mother Nature has been very busy producing a profusion of flowering plants for the bees, on the open areas of the hill, and in natural hedges formed along the driveways that border each side of the property. A sea of wild flowers is seen everywhere, mainly in shades of yellow or white (Goldenrod, Queen Anne's Lace, and many others). New this year, a touch of lilac colour has been added, with the appearance of a large group of Fireweed plants.
You may also be aware that I am quite partial to Lupine plants. In Lupine news, most of the older generations growing on Lupine Hill ceased blooming in July, and subsequently went to seed. Many of their cleverly designed spring-loaded seed pods have now sprung open, and flung their contents to the wind, and the soil. However, some of the next generation of seedlings that grew up earlier this summer, recognizable as Lupines by with their distinctive starburst (palmately compound?) foliage, seem to have a different plan. Rather than wait until next June or July to bloom, presently, some of these tiny plants are sporting developing flower spikes that will likely mature into flower heads some time in September, and seed pods after that. My advice to these ambitious young plants is that they better be quick at making and popping their seed pods, if they expect their seeds to be successfully planted before the ground freezes!
In further Lupine news, the Lone Lupine is still alive, i.e., the one I watched growing in the rocky ditch beyond my ocean-view stall window, which Margaret subsequently transplanted in mid-June, to serve as a perennial headstone in my final resting place in Anne's field. At the time, a few mixed wildflower seeds were also scattered around my site. Unfortunately, the flowers on the Lone Lupine did not have the support they needed to go on to form seed pods. All that remains of the flower spikes are some tall, dry sticks. However, in a touching show of support, a ring of Alyssum plants grew up there, and are seen blooming all around the base of the Lone Lupine. Their tight clusters of tiny white flowers mark the spot, and can be seen even from a distance. In other benevolent gestures, Mother Nature filled a large semi-circular area of the field to the east with bay (laurel) plants, and filled in most of the remaining area with Heal-All plants, whose flowers make such tasty, healing tea.
No hot summer day in August on Shore Road would be complete without a trip to our beach for a refreshing swim. Nor without a night there, to marvel at meteor showers, or warm to a driftwood bonfire on the beach, with special effects provided by excelsior-like clumps of crinkly dried kelp, endowed with a remarkable ability to withstand the flames. In excelsior Deo!!
Friday, August 13, 2021; Case Note No. 13
Hello again, it’s me Ms. AAngyl, the Blogging Unicorn. The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics officially ended last Saturday, August 7, 2021, one day before the peak of the Lion's Gate. The Games concluded with a spectacular, extraordinarily colourful, diverse and joyful Closing Ceremony. The XXXII Olympiad was noteworthy on many levels. The challenges, achievements, breakthroughs, and milestones in many sports, as well as some lessons, will be subjects of discussion for months and years to come. (See Wikipedia articles and hundreds of sports sites, etc., for further details.)
Being one of the few horses with a blog, I am here to speak for the non-humans who participated in activities surrounding the Tokyo 2020 Games. By now, most of the horses and their riders have flown back to their home countries, located all over the planet. Now is as fitting a time as any to carry on with a topic I first addressed in our book, and in Case Note No. 2, regarding the sensibilities of plants, animals, and mechanical creations. In particular, I have more to share regarding inter-species communication and collaboration among flora and fauna, including interactions with humans. For today, I will restrict my remarks on this topic to news from the world of plants.
The uplifting overall theme of the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics was: Moving Forward. For sure, we are all for that! The sub-theme chosen by the Japanese organizers for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies was: United in Emotion. As we shall see, the flowering plants truly took this theme to heart. The entertainment portions of both Olympic ceremonies featured state-of-the-art projection mapping technology using drones. This was utilized within the Olympic Stadium to create stunning visual images that magically augmented the stage and towering space above it, during live performances that showcased Japanese culture and artistry.
Impressive as these ceremonies were, of more interest to the horses in attendance, and to the Plant Kingdom in particular, were the daily award ceremonies that were conducted as top athletes or teams in each sport received their Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals. The non-human participants (as well as enlightened observers of all stripes throughout the Universe), were delighted to see that for the first time since 2012, the victorious human athletes were decorated with "victory bouquets," this year referred to as "mementos." In case you did not see any of these, they were lovely, and carried a deep significance and a message of hope and resilience. You can see images of these bouquets and read all about them online.
In times past, people would send unspoken messages to one another by gifting others with particular types of flowers, whose associated sentiment was understood. Laudably, this tradition was moved forward again in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. The beautiful memento bouquets contained members of the Plant Kingdom that were grown mainly in areas of Japan that were devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, and are still struggling to recover from it. The representative species are: sunflowers from Miyagi, eustoma and Solomon's seal from Fukushima, and gentians from Iwate. Aspidistras, symbolizing the host city of Tokyo, are also included in the victory bouquets.
The sunflowers of Miyagi Prefecture were first planted by parents of children who sought safety from the the oncoming tsunami on a hill in that region, but sadly lost their lives. Every year the entire hill is covered with sunflowers, said to be a reflection of the memories of people affected by the disaster. The eustomas and Solomon's seal were grown in Fukushima Prefecture. After the earthquake, a non-profit organization was established there, to grow flowers for economic recovery when the land was rendered unfit for agriculture. Iwate Prefecture is widely known for its production of gentians. Fittingly, their Indigo blue colour is the same as that of the Tokyo 2020 emblem.
Needless to say, the Plant Kingdom is as pleased as punch to have shared the global stage with the human athletes, who were always seen beaming for the cameras, holding their medals next to their hearts with one hand while victoriously raising their bouquets high above their heads. What wonderful exposure for the flowers and plants!! (BTW, be it known that equine athletes who are medalists would also appreciate receiving a bouquet, preferably of the edible variety. We are working with the Parisians on this matter for 2024. Sunflowers are always a good choice. While living on Shore Road, free to wander the property, I found even the dried leaves of sunflower stalks to be quite delicious, even in November.)
Of course, of course, sunflowers have never been wallflowers. Now, having been in the global limelight during Lion's Gate 2021 (in fact, fully anticipating that exposure to have occurred last summer), some of them have become truly big-headed, not to mention proactive. Sunflowers are now breaking new ground in survival tactics, and in communicating and manifesting their habitats of choice. To wit, several bold and independent young seeds (possibly, but not necessarily, descended from last year's plants, since there are some packets of black sunflower seeds from Dollarama kept on the property, as food for the birds) hatched a plan of their own. This was to survive and plant themselves this year, by way of some avian or red squirrel friends. Three of them were successful, and having arrived in their chosen habitats, this summer they germinated and cropped up in unexpected places around Wildflower Cottage.
Here's the back story. Although some perennial sunflowers exist, these plants are generally known as annuals. Thus, each spring Johannes buys seeds from tall and dwarf varieties of sunflower plants, and plants them strategically in a raised bed along the south side of Wildflower Cottage. (This used to result in plants of predictable heights, planted in locations to coordinate with the positions of the windows. However, as seen in the above photo of the mid-August 2021 crop growing in the south bed, the sunflower seeds he planted this year were having none of it LOL.) In the fall, when the plants have finished blooming, the bees have stopped visiting, and nothing but the naked seeds remain in the flower heads, he cuts them off and throws them on the ground under the spruce tree, as a treat for the local wild birds to enjoy. (That is, those seeds that are still left, after the bluejays have taken as many as they can get their beaks on, by dive-bombing the flower heads on the stalks, and plucking the seeds right out of them.)
It remains a mystery what mechanism(s) was chosen by the adventuresome sunflower seeds, to deliver them to their desired germination sites. However it happened, one very independent seed grew up tall and proud facing the eastern sun in David & Valerie's field near the edge of the property. It is now proudly sporting two big flowers. Perhaps, like the inspirational Sunflowers of Miyagi, it aspires to filling the whole field with generation after generation of its progeny. Two other seeds preferred to remain closer to the house, but again on the east side, probably being well aware of the special attention that Johannes lavishes on the colourful little mixed flowering annuals that he always plants in the window boxes and in planters on the deck in that area.
Accordingly, one attention-seeking sunflower seed decided to put itself on a pedestal right by the door, and found its way into the soil of the perfect planter. Oddly, any photograph of this stealthy plant is not able to be cropped such that the head of this sunflower is visible in the picture. Whatever. It is there. Ye shall know it by its leaves.
The other East Side Sunflower chose to co-exist with a planter full of Nasturtiums that Johannes had grown from a mixture of seeds he had in his shop, as usual of unrecorded origin. The Nasturtium seeds themselves had their own agenda, i.e., to harmonize particularly skillfully with their immediate environment. It was their desire to germinate in colours that matched the two vehicles that inhabit their space between the back deck and the big spruce tree where the birds hang out. Like most males in Cape Breton, Johannes finds it logical and convenient to navigate the rough terrain on the island with off-road recreational vehicles of various types. Among the collection of mechanical angels that serves this purpose at Wildflower Cottage is the 8-wheeled yellow amphibious ARGO ATV known as Surf-N-Turf, and a relative newcomer to the family, Ludmilla (whom Margaret calls Earl), the German-origin-Russian-made orange sidecar motorcycle. These two park side-by-side LOL when they are not out on a mission. So the Nasturtium seeds agreed amongst themselves that they would bloom only in appropriate shades of yellow and orange. Well done! Not to be outdone, a sunflower seed got wind of this scheme, and arranged to co-habitate in the deck planter with them, with the agreement that they would bloom first, and it would bloom at a later date.
As should now be patently obvious, plants are quite skilled at inter-species communication and activism, and are using increasingly sophisticated tactics all the time. Till next week...
Thursday August 5, 2021; Case Note No. 12
Hello again, it's me, Ms. AAngyl. I am posting a day later than usual. Whatever; we've all been busy. So much has transpired on Earth in the past nine days that it's hard to know where to begin. On the global stage, the ongoing games of the Tokyo 2020 XXXII Olympiad continued throughout this window of time, with many of my Equine friends delivering magnificent performances in the segments of Eventing known as Cross Country and Show Jumping. In fact, we heard a first hand report from Swiss Eventer Jet Set, and had a huge Homecoming celebration for him, with Feldschlosslen beer and oatcakes all around, after he flew over the last water jump and joined us on Sunday. Jet, you're going to love eventing with us on a newly-designed course, on the grounds of your new "little castle in the fields!"
There was also a nice bookending event, in the Eventing competition for Individuals. In this equestrian sport, women were first allowed to compete on an equal basis with male competitors in the Olympic games held in Tokyo in 1964. This year, 56 or 57 years later, (depending on how you count it LOL) at the Tokyo 2020 games, the Gold medal has been claimed by a youthful 11-year-old bay mare with a wide blaze and three white stockings named Amande De B'Neville ("Mandy"), who partnered late in training with Julia Krajewski, her female team mate representing Germany. Well done, Julia and Almond! Cracking good work!!
In another form of sport riding, during the past weekend my charge Margaret joined a large group of friends who are motorcycling enthusiasts, at a resort in Baddeck, on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. After a lakeside breakfast Saturday morning, she and many of the riders went on an all day mission on their "bikes," to admire and honour the millions of Trees and the sparkling Lake and Ocean waters that grace the world famous Cabot Trail that encircles the northern half of the island. Of course I went with them, hovering like an unseen drone over their orange motorcycle, inspiring her to record the magnificent sights with ease, from the comfort of her director's chair seat in the motorcycle's sidecar.
On Sunday morning the weather was fine, and the motorcyclists departed bright and early for their home destinations, located all over the province. Margaret had driven to the event in her truck, Big Silver II, and had some time to spare before checking out of the resort. From a previous stay during Celtic Colours in 2010, she remembered the lovely chapel on the grounds of the resort. Funds for its creation were donated in a bequest from an elderly Canadian hockey executive who had convalesced there near the end of his Earthly life. On Saturday when she tried it, she had found the door to the chapel locked. But when she returned on Sunday, it was open. I met her there, and scored a little unicorn magic of my own, with some Dancing Rainbow Light, with assists from the Sun, the Stained Glass Window, and some Gentle Breezes that were artfully blowing through the leaves of Trees planted close to the chapel.
From the tranquility and beauty of that scene, we picked up the pace and made our way cross country, via Trans-Canada Hwy/NS-105W, to Inverness Raceway, arriving by the 1:00 p.m. post time of the first race. Which brings me to the title of this week's blog. While of this Earth, I was quite the fashionista, for example, heartily embracing the introduction of Swarovski crystals among the types of beads and coloured trim allowed on the brow bands of bridles during international Dressage competitions. Of course, of course, if you have been following the news, you may be aware that a topic of lively debate during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics has been the choice of uniforms required to be worn during competitions by some of the human female athletes. For my part, I continue to keep a close eye on all manner of fashions, but my particular focus is on clothing choices for Equines serving in professional sporting capacities.
Regardless of the athletic discipline, I am a strong proponent of Equine Chic in work attire, which combines elegance and harmony with comfort and practicality suited to the job. In light of this, I inspired Margaret to go to the races on Sunday for a special assignment I took on, at the request of some fashionable friends of mine who are Standardbred pacers. These hard-working horses solicited my advice on how to choose winning looks for their often weekly performances at the local harness races.
Although my father was a world class fine harness horse, I never had the experience of racing in harness, either while trotting or pacing. (All horses can naturally walk, trot, and canter. "Pacing" is a special gait in which horses simultaneously move the front and hind legs on the same side of their bodies. In order to perform this gait, a horse needs a mutation in DMRT3, the so-called "gait-keeper" gene. DMRT3 is expressed in spinal cord neurons arranged in locomotor networks that function to control and coordinate the movement of the front and hind limbs.) Some talented Standardbred pacers can really rock this gait while pulling a driver in a cart. Seen from the front as they approach, they appear to merrily swing or sweep their legs from side to side as they pull their carts forward (carts in this sport also being known as "bikes").
Never having previous Earthly experience as a pacing harness horse, I had to do some research about what they wear. Given the complexities of harness race outfits for pacers, and the manner in which the various sartorial elements are selected, it turned out to be a bit of a tall order. But I learned a lot in the process, and came up with some general tips for the fashion-conscious pacer. For purposes of illustration, I have included some photos of my friends modelling outfits they wore at recent appearances at the track. I will refer to them by the large numbers shown on the coloured "saddle pads" seen on their backs.
For a horse to appear well-dressed, the first consideration, of course, of course, is the coat colour in question. In this sport, that's pretty easy. The vast majority of Standardbred pacers, at least those seen regularly at tracks in Cape Breton, are bays i.e., horses with hair that is some shade of "fiddle brown," contrasted with a black mane and tail and "black points" on the lower legs and ears. Thus, my comments here are manely tailored to great looks for bays.
A winning look on the track, and at the grandstand, is all about harmony, balance, and flow. Horse #1 made a smart choice, choosing every element of his elaborate white harness to complement his white bike/cart. The full set of harness seen here includes a striking white overcheck, bridle, reins and breast collar, paired with fashionable white hopples (also called hobbles) to accentuate his well-toned legs, the hopples being suspended from matching white hopple hangers. This stunning look is completed with matching white tape around his knee and shin boots, and this seasoned muscular gelding pulls it all off, very well.
Because competing in this sport requires a partnership with a human (who may be under the mistaken impression that he or she is in charge of all of the decision-making), it is important for a horse to be aware of, and consider in advance, the preferred colour choices of the person most likely to drive its cart during the race. Naturally, this is easier to predict if the driver is also the horse's owner and/or trainer. But often a horse will be driven in the race by a professional, so it pays to know their colour choices as well. Each driver wears a recognizable uniform consisting of a short-sleeved jersey and pants in a unique colour combination, referred to as his or her "silks." The colours of silks chosen by the drivers are based on personal preference, and in some cases have historical significance in this age-old sport, relating, for example, to the colours worn by a grandparent who was also a driver, back in his racing days. Wisely, Horse #1 teamed up with a popular driver who wears blue-white-yellow silks, for a pleasing overall look that complements him, and his white harness and cart.
Horse #2 has also chosen her wardrobe with a keen eye for style. This elegant young mare is outfitted in a simple yet pleasing combination of mainly black harness elements, paired white hopple hangers, with no contrasting colour wrapped around her slim legs. She pulls a cart with black shafts and attractive blue wheels, which coordinates nicely with the blue-white silks worn by the driver. Her look is fortuitously completed by a coordinating saddle pad in royal blue, the colour designated for the horse who is assigned to Start Position 2 on the track.
Veering further into the deep blue yonkers is Horse #3, a free-spirited young gelding who chose to wear black hopples with an attractive set of royal blue harness that contrasts nicely with the bright copper of his coat colour. He pairs this look with a royal blue cart with white wheels, driven by a man who sports blue-white-gold silks. An unexpected touch of turquoise at the girth adds an extra pop of colour.
Seemingly out of the horse's control is the colour of the saddle pad it must wear during the race, as part of its outfit. This is determined by a draw that occurs several days before the scheduled race. Viewed at the starting gate from the inside rail outward, horses in Positions 1 through 8 respectively wear saddle pads of the following colours: Red, Blue, White, Green, Black, Yellow, Pink, and Gray. The starting position is shown both by the designated colour, and also by the larger number on the pad. (The smaller pad number designates the particular Race Number the team is entered into, of the six to eight races that are typically run per racing session.) Horse #4 came to the race wearing a set of harness in basic black and pulling a Red cart, with his only touch of colour being a blue breast collar. This six-year-old gelding jazzed up his look with the addition of his Green, Position 4, saddle pad. (Alternatively, perhaps he feels that the colours he wears don't matter at all LOL.)
Conventional wisdom is that Starting Positions 1-3 are most favourable for winning a race. Thus, if a horse has a desire to win on a particular night, it would do well to envision receiving the Red, Blue or White saddle pad in the draw, and dress accordingly. On the other hand, since the horses all take turns at winning anyway, they can also use any higher position numbers they receive as an opportunity to really show their true colours. A bold and skillful demonstration of that approach is shown by dashing young Horse #6, a 3-year-old gelding who drew the Yellow saddle pad associated with Position 6. Seizing the opportunity to stand out when positioned closest to the crowd, he came dressed to the nines in a full set of green harness with matching leg wraps, pulling a white cart manned by a driver sporting yellow-white-green silks. Very snappy!
To minimize distractions created by sounds and sights during the races, pacing harness horses are permitted to wear additional gear on their heads, including removable ear plugs, and blinkers (also known as blinders), which are designed to restrict their visual fields to varying degrees. Blinders come in several configurations (regular, open cup and closed cup). Some are attached to the bridle, whereas others are a component of separate hoods that cover the eyes and are fastened around the horse's head. I have no comment about the relative virtues of each type of blinders for harness horse racing. But if you want my opinion about the aesthetics of the style shown below, I have to be honest and say, "It's probably not your best look..."
That's enough for now about harness wear for pacers. No report of fashion news in Cape Breton over the past week would be complete without a bird's eye view of the Scarecrows of Isle Madame pageant, going on all summer in Donald & Rosemary's vegetable garden in D'Escousse. Beachie and Breezie, you've got style!